ATLANTA — In a landslide victory that represented a resounding rebuke from Donald J. Trump, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp won the Republican nomination for a second term on Tuesday, reversing a Trump-fueled primary challenge and giving the former president his biggest election setback of the 2022 primary.
Mr Trump had made beating Mr Kemp and his allies a top priority, seeking retaliation for Governor and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s decision to certify Georgia’s 2020 election. After his attempts at subversion were rejected, Mr. Trump personally recruited former Senator David Perdue to run for governor, and his support of Mr. Raffensperger was among the first of his post-presidency.
Both Mr Kemp and Mr Raffensperger won anyway – and Mr Kemp led by about 50 percentage points with more than 90 percent of the vote counted, a blowout that could have easily prevented a runoff.
Perdue had anchored his candidacy in promoting falsehoods about fraud in the last election, blaming Mr Kemp for both Mr Trump’s defeat and his own loss in a 2021 runoff election that will leave Democrats in control. gave the Senate. mr. Trump went all in for Mr. Perdue: He worked to clear the field for him, shoot TV ads, hold a demonstration, and even transfer $2.64 million from his political accounts to help him.
The one-sided outcome exposed the limits of Mr Trump’s rule at his party’s base, marking the third straight week that a candidate he had supported as governor had lost. It was also a sign of the waning strength of Trump’s obsession with re-advocating his 2020 loss two years later.
Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and a former Trump adviser, who had campaigned with Mr. Kemp, celebrated on Twitterdeclaring that voters had rejected “the DJT Vendetta Tour”.
The win for Mr. Kemp, 58, will see him rematch his 2018 fight with Stacey Abrams, 48, who won the Democratic nomination unopposed Tuesday in what will be one of the most closely watched gubernatorial races in the country this fall. His most urgent need is to reunite a Republican Party fractured by the divisive primaries.
Standing on the artificial turf of a football field at the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta, Mr. Kemp rhetorically refused to nail the football. He thanked his opponent “for the spirited debate” and said Mr Perdue had supported him in a telephone conversation.
At a time that underscored the bitterness of the race, Mr. Perdue in a brief concession speech in Atlanta that “everything I said about Brian Kemp was true,” while still urging his supporters to stand up to Ms. Abrams, calling Mr Kemp a “much better choice.”
While Georgia received the top bill on Tuesday, several other states held primaries, including Texas, where a mass shooting at an elementary school killed at least 19 children and left a nation in mourning. Kemp had postponed his victory speech until after President Biden addressed the tragedy from the White House.
In the US Senate race in Georgia, Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia football star who was also recruited by Mr. Trump, won the Republican nomination and will face Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat in November. The fall matchup, the outcome of which could tilt control over the Senate, is a rare general election contest in the South pitting two black candidates against each other.
As Mr Walker slipped through the primaries, his tumultuous past – including allegations of domestic violence and his exaggerated and false claims about his business success – are expected to air more thoroughly in the general election.
Both sides expect Mr. Walker will be the subject of upcoming commercials that question his ability and credentials. His Democratic opponent, Mr. Warnock, 52, one of the top fundraisers in the nation, has been on television for months and mostly focuses on positive messages.
With nearly 200 statements of support so far, Mr Trump has framed the 2022 primaries as a rolling referendum on his influence in the party. He scored notable major successes, such as JD Vance in Ohio, and suffered defeats in Nebraska and Idaho. But to date, no state has been such a major focus for Trump as Georgia, where he sought to impeach not only the governor but also Mr. Kemp’s allies in other offices across the state.
Trump’s choice of attorney general lost in a landslide, and his choice of insurance commissioner also lagged far behind. His choice for the open office of the lieutenant governor was an obvious one, but possibly led to a second round.
In the race for secretaries of state, Mr. Raffensperger, the incumbent Republican who was pressured by Mr. Trump to find enough votes to undo the election in early 2021, has avoided a runoff election against Rep. Jody Hice, leading by about 200,000 votes early Wednesday morning. †
The Secretary of State acts as Georgia’s top election official, and the winner in the fall will have great power how the 2024 presidential campaign will be conducted in a key battleground.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the right-wing instigator, handily cast aside a more moderate challenger, who won more than two-thirds of the vote in her district.
In Texas, the last scion of Bush’s political dynasty, State Commissioner George P. Bush, was defeated in the Attorney General’s race, losing to scandal-plagued incumbent Ken Paxton. And in a Democratic contest along the border, Representative Henry Cuellar, one of the most moderate Democrats in the House, was at an impasse against a progressive challenge from Jessica Cisneros that has attracted national attention.
In Alabama, three Republican candidates had battled for the runoff election to pass outgoing Senator Richard Shelby: Representative Mo Brooks; Mike Durant, the helicopter pilot portrayed in “Black Hawk Down”; and Katie Britt, a former chief of staff for Mr. shelby. Mr Trump had initially backed Mr Brooks in early 2021, but when Mr Brooks slumped in the polls, he withdrew that endorsement. Mr Brooks advanced to the second round with Ms Britt, who was the top voter.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey won her primary against two right-wing challengers.
And in Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary and daughter of former Governor Mike Huckabee, easily won the Republican primary for governor. Arkansas Senator John Boozman avoided a runoff election against Jake Bequette, a former soccer star, in a race that has seen more than $7 million worth of television ads.
In Georgia, Mr. Kemp has methodically locked up the support of the state’s biggest political players and donors pending a Trump-led primary battle. He signed a host of conservative priorities, including a restrictive new voting law in 2021 and a gas tax break extending just after the primaries. He also expanded gun rights, increased teacher salaries and sent tax refund checks issued in recent weeks.
All those maneuvers and more left Perdue isolated, with little to lean on beyond the support of Trump, who has been furious for 18 months over Mr Kemp’s refusal to try to undo the 2020 election results in his state.
“His endorsement is still important, but it comes with an asterisk,” said Stephen Lawson, a Georgia-based Republican strategist, adding that the failure of the Perdue campaign was “proof that your message needs to be more than that. “
Even before the election was over, Mr. Perdue’s own allies openly criticize Perdue’s efforts as lackluster. And many national Republicans rallied behind Mr. Kemp, when the Republican Governors Association took the unusual step of stepping in to spend more than $5 million on primaries advertising. Ambitious potential 2024 Republican presidential candidates have campaigned for him, including Mr. Christie and, on the eve of the election, former Vice President Mike Pence.
Despite Mr Trump’s anger and public attacks, Mr Kemp has never fired back at the former president. “I’ve never said anything bad about him,” Mr. Kemp said Monday. “I don’t intend to. I’m not mad at him. I think he’s just mad at me.”
Now, Mr. Kemp must hope that discipline pays off and that Mr. Trump — who mused at a meeting in Georgia last fall that Ms. Abrams “might be better than having your current governor” — isn’t actively trying to torpedo him in November.
Mr Walker tried to remain neutral in the governor’s primaries and refused to endorse or even say who he was voting for. The 60-year-old political newcomer avoided debates during the primaries and mostly ignored his rivals in a field that also involved Georgia’s secretary of agriculture, Gary Black.
mr. Black had repeatedly warned that the untested Mr. Walker would prove ineligible – “he will never win,” said Mr. Black in a recent interview — and that Republicans would regret his anointing.
One of the ways Mr. Trump tried to ease the path for Mr. Perdue was by pushing another ally, Vernon Jones, out of the governor’s race and entering an open congressional contest. That race was headed for a second lap.
Georgia Republicans rewrote the district lines before 2022, cramming two House Democrats into the same suburban Atlanta district and diluting the Democratic power of another seat in the southwest corner of the state occupied by Representative Sanford Bishop. Mr. Bishop, a Democrat, faces his first serious challenge in years this fall.
As a result, Republicans could increase their share of the congressional delegation from 8-6 to 10-4.
In the primary that pitted two Democratic incumbents against each other, Representative Lucy McBath defeated Representative Carolyn Bourdeaux on Tuesday.
Richard Fausset reporting contributed.